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Maggie Valley NC Hotel - Lodging in the Smoky Mountains at the Abbey Inn Motel

hotel motel in Maggie Valley in the Smoky Mountains near the Blue Ridge Parkway

BLACK BEAR FACTS

black bear
bear bcub

Black bears are thriving in North Carolina.  There are now more bears in the Park than at any time in the last 50 years.

The black bear population was on he verge of extinction in the early 1900's but now, the Wildlife Commission estimates that the bear population in the mountain county's is at 3,000 and 1,807 bears live in the Park.

North Carolina has two bear  hunting season, one in October and one in December. Researchers say that if we didn't have the hunting seasons, there would be so many bears to the amount of people that we probably would not be able to get along. In the 1998-1999 hunting season, hunters bagged 421 bears. Of course hunting is prohibited in the Park.

North Carolina has about 3 million acres of relatively contiguous bear habitat, which provides ample room for roaming, and prevents inbreeding.  In addition, bears are not particularly susceptible to disease.

Bears can live in excess of 20 years.  Most of the bears killed are bagged by hunters or hit by cars.

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WINTER SLEEP OR HIBERANTION?

There is an ongoing debate whether black bears truly hibernate in the winter. Their metabolism does not slow down as much as that of groundhogs and other "true hibernators".  Also, their body temperature may drop only 10-15 degrees and their heart rate doesn't slow as drastically. Some bears have been know to rouse immediately from their winter slumber, startling hikers and researchers.

On the other hand, some black bears sleep through the entire winter without so much as changing their position.  "True hibernators" do stir regularly to eat and deposit bodily waste.

During the late summer and autumn black bears go through a gluttonous period to prepare for their long winter sleep.  A bear who would normally eat about 4,000 calories a day will consume as much as 20,000 calories and forage for as much as 20 hours daily.

Today most black bears nest on the ground or in caves. They generally make a nest of leaves and other forest litter. Some researchers believe this may be the result of timbering practices across the black bear's range.  In the old-growth forests of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, black bears have shown a definite preference for nesting in trees.  Bears have been found as high as 80 feet above ground in the Park. 

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